Every year Notre Dame University offers the Teachers as Scholars program and for the last several years I’ve picked up their brochure in the teacher’s lounge at my school thinking that it looked interesting. But I never did take advantage of it, until this year. The seminar on Teaching Ethics to Kids sounded interesting- an ever challenging phenomenon in a public inner-city school. I signed up for it. The form required that I list a second and third choice of seminars in case the first one was already filled. Reluctantly I made two more choices. There really was only the one class I was interesting in.
When my acceptance letter came in the school mail, my shoulders drooped. They had signed me up for my second choice: Dying to Live: Theological Perspectives on Migration and Globalization. The date of the seminar had also been changed and it conflicted with a writing seminar I was registered to attend with the school.
“I think I’ll drop it,” I commented to another teacher. “I really wanted to attend the writing seminar anyway.” But after more discussion and some time to contemplate, I decided that I would attend the Teachers as Scholars program. It would be a good experience. I could learn something new. I always enjoyed learning new things.
Not that the concept of migration was new. Half of the students at my school have migrated from Mexico and other Spanish speaking countries. I had had the most awesome ELL (English Language Learners) class last year. All my students were from Mexican or Port-a-Rican descent. We had so much fun learning together. It would be interesting learning about experiences similar to those their families might have encountered.
But a seminar on migration coming from a theological perspective? I pictured enduring a day cowering under an opinionated professor with liberal thinking insisting that we all agree that the US should open wide her borders and allow everyone to pass back and forth with no restrictions. While I agree that the US migration laws need a desperate overhaul, this idea that we should just entirely do away with borders would cause our economy to collapse and leave us with nothing left to offer anyone, not even ourselves.
Then my mind returned to the word Theological Perspectives in the seminar title. Yeah, right! I thought. Like a Doctor of Theology from Berkley who had been a visiting research fellow at Oxford would still believe in the basic theology of the Bible. But again, I reminded myself that a new perspective, whether or not I agreed with it, would expand my worldview. I began to read the booklet that had arrived with my packet of information from Notre Dame. I forced myself to wade through all the statistics. Some of them opened my eyes to some new thoughts. That was good.
I arrived early and settled into my seat at the table, nibbling on the breakfast snacks provided, skimming over the last few chapters in the book, smiling hi as a few more participants settled into seats around me. Dr. Dan Groody seemed like an amiable man. He appeared relaxed in his khaki slacks and polo shirt. He was introduced as Father Dan Groody and soon had us all feeling at ease along with him.
We spent the morning listening to and discussing facts of migration. After a lunch across campus we returned to a video he had produced about migrant workers from Mexico risking their lives, many dying in their attempts to cross hazardous mountain and desert terrain, all in a desperate attempt to make enough money to stop the cries of hunger from their children back home. Risking death so their children might have a chance at life. Dying to Live: Theological Perspectives on Migration and Globalization. A fitting title.
Then Dr. Groody began to speak again. “We are all migrants,” he said. “According to Christian theology we are all migrants, aliens, foreigners in a strange country, seeking a better home. And God himself, in the form of Jesus, migrated to this earth and died so that we could live.”
I sat there listening to the gospel of Jesus Christ being preached through the voice of migration. This message that causes my heart to hunger, my eyes to glisten and my spirit to soar reverberated from the walls of that college classroom. I sat mesmerized, unable to take my eyes from his. My heart wanted to laugh, to stand and shout, but my body remained immobile. When he finished there was a hallowed silence. And when he asked for comments, I was speechless.
Thank you, God! My heart cried. I may have wanted the Ethics for Children seminar, but you, the one who migrated from Heaven to Earth, sent me here to hear your story in a new light.
My 1000 Gifts:
339. Attending the Teachers as Scholars program at Notre Dame University.
340. Discovering that my second choice was God’s awesome first choice.
341. Seeing the human side of illegal migrants from Mexico to the US.
342. Hearing the gospel of Jesus Christ proclaimed through the voice of migration.
343. Feeling my husband’s heart connect with mine as I tell him about the thrill of hearing the gospel in the message of migration.
344. Discovering the girl sitting next to me was from Germany.
345. Discovering that having enough protein in my diet helps renew the energy I had been lacking.
346. Delicious lima beans.
347. Crabapple branches loaded with red and pink extending like tentacles into the sky.
348. Afternoon naps.
349. Easter service.
350. Resurrection cookies.
351. The children leading us in a march for Jesus around the block.
352. Whole families coming for prayer.
353. People coming to Christ in repentance.
354. A young woman standing strong for Christ in a hard situation.
355. The buoyancy of the heart as the Spirit of God indwells and surrounds.
356. Dinner with friends.
357. Meeting new friends.
358. Discovering a new favorite Mexican Restaurant.
359. An extra day of vacation.
360. A good job that I enjoy to return to.
361. A weekend in Chicago.
362. Discovering a supermarket in a glass covered high rise building.
363. Once more experiencing the culture shock that the big city brings inside this little country girl.
364. The introspection that comes with being out of my element.
365. Staring up, up, up, up, up towards the tops of skyscrapers towering over us.
366.The same blue sky and sunshine that cheers me here in Elkhart appearing between the tall buildings in Chicago.
367. Seeing Marilyn Monroe in Chicago.
368. The river-taxi ride.
369. Walking Navy Pier with friends.
370. Meeting a young man who is passionate for God.
371. Realizing that if my husband and I would have had children, this young man would be the right age to be our son and thinking of how cool it would be to have a son passionate for Jesus like he is.
372. Hearing the words of encouragement a friend gave to my husband.
373. Seeing God come through for us one more time.
374. Learning that I can trust God.
375. Reading an awesome translation of Acts 17:28. In him we live and move and have our being. A German translation says that in him sind wir, in him we are. He is the I Am and in him we are.
376. The stone chimney and porch on one of the houses I walk by on my joy walk.
377. Students doing well on tests.
378. Students reading on level “I” and beyond.
379. A faithful God.
380. Finding a natural cure instead of needing to take medication.
381. Remembering to put my earrings in. (I feel naked without them.)
382. Our new Vitamix blender!
383. Fruit smoothies filled with veggies.
384. Ice cream filled with veggies.
385. Having all four food groups in one delicious drink.
386. Being able to add the flaxseeds without pre-grinding them.
387. Watching a four year old boy go out of his way to jump over a pothole in the parking lot and then stop to wave at me in my car- waiting for him and his mother to pass.
388. Being able to call my mechanical mother when my husband is out of town and the lawnmower won’t start.
389. A new lawnmower that works.
390. Mowing the yard.
391. . . .